What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine involves detailed assessment including history taking, physical examination, and laboratory testing to assess the impact of modifiable environmental factors and chemical imbalances on a patient’s health concerns. While where conventional, or allopathic medicine shines is acute and emergency care, naturopathic medicine can give you insight into the etiology of chronic diseases to remove obstacles to healing and facilitate long-term relief of symptoms. 

Air, water, food, movement, toxic exposures, social factors and traumas are just a few of the factors considered in promoting patient vitality, not just the absence of disease.

More than two thirds of all deaths are caused by chronic diseases and over 90% of chronic disease is preventable. With an individualized approach, naturopathic medicine addresses healthcare needs of the 21st century.

Although individual genes do increase your susceptibility to some diseases, using the field of epigenetics, to an extent you can modify your DNA expression. Boosting cellular processes such as mitochondria function, for example, has a cascading effect onto larger health systems, including:

  • detoxification
  • hormones, 
  • neurotransmitters
  • inflammation
  • digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • energy

Treatment Approach

  • Prevention is key. A naturopathic doctor is more likely to order comprehensive testing of vitamins and minerals like iron; deficiencies of which play a role in disease development.
  • You are a partner. As a patient, you are an active partner in determining treatment, course and outcomes. It is your responsibility to be honest about your history and speak up about changes you are willing to make and what would work with your lifestyle. Such a partnership allows you to improve your health and change the outcome of the disease.
  • Naturopathic medicine expands your doctor’s tool kit. Treatments may include pharmaceuticals where required and botanical medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, or detoxification programs to facilitate healing. Counseling on lifestyle, movement, and stress management forms a critical component to long-term healing.
  • The latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques are utilized considering the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. 

Naturopathic medicine is a modern name for a systemized approach to health and disease that has long existed in human civilization. Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and the First Nations indigenous medicine wheel for example, have taken a holistic approach and perspective on disease for thousands of years. 

Randomized control clinical trials, which are the gold standard in evidence based medicine, are relatively new when compared to how long these therapies have been practiced on humans. Unfortunately, randomized control trials are expensive to run, and when you cannot patent an herb like ginger or garlic, studies on holistic therapies are much less likely to have industry funding, and as a result exist. We often rely on philanthropy and government funding for clinical trials of holistic therapies.

It is also important to note that there is a degree of appropriation in the use of traditional medicine herbs and techniques. The term “Functional medicine” may be gaining traction these days because it provides consumers a more palatable terminology to this holistic approach. However, this more palatable term may cause harm, given that the United States has a history of actively persecuting and erasing holistic approaches. In Tennessee for example, you can go to jail for practicing naturopathic medicine. 

What can help is attributing credit and saying the name when an herb is recommended due to its historical use in Ayurveda, for example.

In seeing a naturopathic doctor you are taking an extra step towards your health. Often, care and high quality nutraceuticals do not receive insurance reimbursement, while surgery and pharmaceuticals do. Though the battle remains uphill for holistic therapies, by selecting a naturopathic doctor you are playing an active role in keeping access for future generations.

In July we had an important victory at the federal level to allow the use of compounded glutathione by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Letters from naturopathic doctors and patient testimonials were critical to this win. 

Today, there is another battle in California involving compounded glutathione and the active form of sterile methylcobalamin B12. We are fighting to save methylated B12, which is a superior form of absorption. As of October 29th 2022, compounding pharmacies are not shipping B12 or injectable glutathione to practices located in California. This battle is occuring at the legal level and will likely take another six months.

I express deep gratitude for my patients, for putting faith in my practice, as well as those who have bravely practiced in a hostile environment over the centuries, keeping the knowledge of holistic medicine available to future generations.